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Presidential candidate Kamala Harris comes to Denver

Crowd excited about historic candidacy

A Kamala Harris supporter holds up a campaign sign at Aug. 3 rally at Manual High School.
Photo: Taelar Pollmann · The Sentry

Doors didn’t open until after 5:00p.m., but fans of Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris started lining up outside of Manual High School at 1:45 p.m. to see the California senator at her first campaign event in Colorado on Aug. 2. By 4:30 p.m., the line to see Harris snaked around Manual High School and into Fuller Park. According to Harris staffer Ammar Moussa, over 2000 people were in attendance.

“I know we’re all here for one reason, and that reason is we need love for our country. And we’re going to fight for it,” Harris told the crowd. “I know it’s hot as you-know-what in here, but we are all in here together!” Harris later added, showing appreciation for all her supporters who spent hours standing and waiting in the heat to see her.

Colorado state Reps. Selena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Leslie Herod both spoke at the rally ahead of Harris to show support for the California senator’s presidential campaign. Herod also announced that she will be a co-chair of the Kamala Harris for President campaign.

“I remember November 2016,” Gonzales-Gutierrez told the crowd, referring to President Trump’s election. “I sat my daughters down and talked to them about what just happened…I explained to them that there are people out there who will treat them differently because of who they are. Because of their last name. Because of the color of their skin.”

Of Harris, Gonzales-Gutierrez said, “She will show [my daughters] they can be who are they are.”

“At the end of the day, I believe we need someone who can inspire this country,” Herod added. “Someone who has a track record of getting the job done.”

Herod, an African American woman, also discussed the significance of Harris’ candidacy. “Kamala is a trailblazer, serving as the second African American woman in US history to serve in the US Senate,” Herod said, before adding, “As a woman of color I can tell you we have to do five times as much to go half as far.”

When Harris was introduced to the stage, she began by discussing her upbringing, having two parents that were civil rights activists. “We spent full time marching and shouting,” she said. She added that her mother was the person who inspired her, telling the crowd that her mother told her, “You must live a life that is bigger than yourself…Don’t let anyone tell you who you are. You tell them who you are.”

“Let’s talk for a moment about the current occupant in the White House,” Harris added to boos from the crowd at the mention of Trump. Harris then pondered the meaning of Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” with the implication that the United States needs to “go back” to something.

“Back to before the voting rights act? Back before Roe v. Wade? Back before the federal minimum wage?” Harris asked. “We’re not going back!”

Fittingly, as Harris was speaking at a local high school, she also brought up the importance of education and public school teachers. “One of the greatest expressions of love that a society can extend to its children is to invest in their education,” Harris said. She added that her own first grade teacher was so supportive of her that she attended her law school graduation years later.

“In the America we believe in, we will pay our teachers their value,” Harris said. This message is especially poignant in Denver, which earlier this year had a high-profile three-day teachers’ strike.

Harris added that the message of valuing teachers is especially important in Colorado, one of the states with the lowest-paid public school teachers.

Harris also discussed the threat of gun violence that has been a major concern at schools in recent years. As recently as April of this year a woman who was obsessed with the 1999 Columbine High School shooting traveled from Florida to Colorado to target local high schools. Harris said that when she is president “our children will not have to hide in the closet in the event that there is a mass shooter.”

Harris said she believes leaders in congress and other government officials have “failed to have courage to reject a false choice” that “you are either for the second amendment or want to take everyone’s guns away.” Because of “their failure to act…we have seen the worst of human tragedy,” referring to the number of high-profile mass shootings in recent months.

Harris claimed that after she is elected, “I will give Congress 100 days to get their act together, and if they don’t, I will take executive action.” Among those acts Harris proposed would be banning assault weapons.

Additionally, with health care being a major talking point in the Democratic presidential debates that were held on CNN earlier that week, Harris told the crowd, “I rolled out my Medicare for all plan this week and I am proud of it.” Harris’ health care proposal is different than that of her primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders in that, unlike Sanders, Harris offers an option for citizens to enroll in a private insurance plan instead of only government-sponsored options.

Olivia Morales, a CU Denver graduate student studying sociology, was one of the 2000 event attendees. “I was encouraged by the number of people I saw. It was packed, which is not typical for a candidate at number three or four in the polls, more evidence to me that people are responding to Harris as an exciting candidate,” Morales said.

Morales, who said she’s been a fan of Harris for a long time, explained that while many democratic candidates have similar policy positions, “I think at this point Democrats have to be more concerned with electability, and I think Harris is far more competitive against Trump than anyone else running at the moment. I felt the same kind of excitement at her event as I did campaigning for Obama when I was an undergrad in ‘08.”

Morales elaborated, “I feel there is a dangerous mentality right now that, because of the midterm results, the Democrats have the White House…virtually on lock, no matter the nominee. That is totally false. The same people who elected Trump are even more emboldened, and the people who were indifferent enough not to vote the last time need an exciting candidate, and Harris fits the bill.”

According to Real Clear Politics, Harris has been averaging 7.4 percent in national polls as of Aug. 20. The 2020 Iowa caucuses will be held on Feb. 3, 2020, leaving nearly six months for the Democratic candidates to gain ground.

Harris concluded by calling for national unity. “We wholesale reject those who would sow hate and division between us…The vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us,” Harris asserted.

“One of our greatest strengths,” Harris added about Americans, “is we are aspirational. We are a nation that was founded on noble ideals.”

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